Movie Stars Who Came Out of Retirement to Act Again

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For some actors, the adoration of fans, the riches, the ability to get the best table at the best restaurants and to work in exotic locations are not enough reasons to remain in the public eye. 

They choose to step away from the pressure to deliver a film triumph, to avoid intrusive media, to live beyond the rabid attention of the public.

Yet some performers miss the spotlight and return to it. They simply change their minds and after several years come back to the industry – actors such as Alec Baldwin, Robert Redford, and Anthony Hopkins. For James Cagney, the hiatus was about 20 years, before director Miloš Forman convinced him to appear in “Ragtime.” (These are the most bankable actors of the 21st century.)

24/7 Tempo has created a list of actors who came out of retirement to return to the big or small screen by reviewing articles on the subject on sites including Screen Rant, BBC America, FandomWire, and Smart Asset.

The profession can be especially difficult on child actors. Macaulay Culkin and Jack Gleeson both starred in blockbusters (“Home Alone” and “Game of Thrones,” respectively) and both left the industry because of burnout. The career of Shirley Temple, a huge star in the 1930s, was over by the time she was 22 because she didn’t like being typecast. (In our own era, here are 44 actors who are always typecast.)

Audrey Hepburn, Cameron Diaz, and Evangeline Lilly all chose to retire to focus on their children before they returned to the industry. Other actors had to end or suspend their careers for health reasons, among them Michael J. Fox and Shia LaBeouf.

Former child actor, Ke Huy Quan returned to the big screen in 2022 in the film Everything Everywhere All At Once, his first film in more than 20 years. He had left acting because of the lack of opportunities for Asian actors.

Persistence paid off for director Martin Scorsese. He refused to take no for an answer from retired actors Daniel Day-Lewis and Joe Pesci. They returned to star in “Gangs of New York” and “The Irishman,” respectively.

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